On December 16, 2020, the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) issued Order of the Health Officer No. C19-17 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases that the department said could quickly "overwhelm hospitals" in the county, as well as the rest of California, unless the City took measures to try to control the virus' spread. With some exceptions, the order requires "every person who travels to, moves to, or returns to the County [of San Francisco] after having been in any location outside of the Bay Area" to quarantine for a period of 10 days (240 hours) from a person's time of arrival in the county. The order defines "Bay Area" to include the following counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma.

The order provides for limited exemptions to the quarantine requirement. These exemptions include but are not limited to individuals "travelling, moving, or returning to the County to perform work at a General Acute Care Hospital in the Bay Area"; "commuting to or travelling solely in the course of performing an Essential Government Function"; or "commuting to or travelling solely in the course of performing work for Essential Infrastructure," so long as that work cannot be performed remotely. The exemptions also include individuals who travelled outside the Bay Area but whose employers provided them with a written notice that they are required to return to work in the county because of a shortage "of staffing for an Essential Business, Essential Government Function, Healthcare Operation, Essential Infrastructure purpose, Additional Business, or Outdoor Business."

An employer does not have to ask employees if they traveled outside the Bay Area or where they went on vacation. However, if an employer learns that an employee did travel outside the Bay Area, the employer must exclude the employee from the workplace.

In its answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the travel order, the SFDPH responded that the order did not require employers to approve personal time off, leave, or vacation outside the employer's normal policies during the quarantine period. The SFDPH did not address whether employers had to allow employees to use San Francisco Public Health Emergency Leave or California Supplemental Paid Sick Leave during the quarantine period.

In addition to the FAQs, the SFDPH also issued a "Travel Advisory and Guidance on Safer Essential Travel." The order became effective on December 18, 2020, and expires on January 4, 2021, at 12:01 a.m., unless the SFDPH extends it because of the COVID-19 surge.

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